St. Matthew's Episcopal

All Christians are Welcome!

Posted on: April 24th, 2014 by Robin Jarrell

[This was finally published in the 4/25/2014 edition of the The Daily Item]

I understand that recently a new parish of the American National Catholic Church now calls Lewisburg home.  As an Anglican Catholic (whose branch in the United States can sometimes be referred to as Episcopalian), I was delighted to discover that this branch of Catholicism (unlike the Old Catholics who broke away from Roman Catholicism in 1870 over papal infallibility) has its roots in the second Vatican council and is an independent Christian denomination that ordains both married men and women as well as lesbian women and gay men.  They also recognize same-sex marriages.  When I was speaking to an (Episcopal) clergy friend of mine about this particular independent Catholic church, my friend said, “Well, if folks are dissatisfied with Rome, why don’t they just become Episcopalians?”

It was a well-meaning question, but it misses an appreciation for the subtleties that are genuine within different Christian traditions. Ecumenism is a noble cause, but any study of the Origins of Christianity will reveal that the early Church was by no means unified in its doctrine or practice.  This is not to say that Christians today of all kinds cannot live and work together meaningfully.  But it is to say that the difference between Christian traditions is an important way various disciples of Christ live out their faith as God has called them.

I grew up in the south where a tiny niche of Anglicanism managed to call itself Episcopalian.  As my mother was fond of pointing out, many Christians profess the Nicene Creed and, as Anglicans, we were also a part of that “one, true, holy catholic (meaning universal) and apostolic (deriving our tradition from the twelve apostles) church.  Episcopalians value their “via media” (middle way) status that places them doctrinally between Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions.  Lutherans, for example, are Christians whose founder, Martin Luther, was trying to reform (not “protest” – as Rome countered) what he saw as the failings of Roman Catholicism.  In fact, despite the “protestant” terminology historically associated with Episcopalians, the Anglican part of my liturgical faith tradition with its inclusion of Celtic and eastern influences, is rich, indeed.

In the same way, the American National Catholic Church’s tradition is filled with a long and treasured faithful and liturgical past that seeks to restore the balance that was lost when Roman Catholics failed to carry out the bold reforms tentatively established by the second Vatican counsel.  As a Christian who delights in the myriad expressions of preaching and practicing the Gospel, I am especially hopeful – in light of the recent shootings at Jewish centers in Kansas City – that all faith traditions can learn to appreciate the sacred divine as inherent sisters and brothers of the creator God.  I am delighted to have the American National Catholic Church establish its Holy Spirit Parish in Lewisburg. 

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